NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Ohio State’s starters could have used some help in the 64-62 loss to Kansas on Saturday night.
Any help could have made the difference in whether the Buckeyes headed home or moved on to the national championship game.
The three reserves who played for Ohio State (31-8) combined for zero points without taking a shot, four rebounds and two assists. In a game that came down to the final seconds, any help could have made the difference.
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Sam Thompson, Amir Williams and Evan Ravenel weren’t offensive forces all season, combining for a total of 8.3 points per game. But on a night when every point was so crucial, they came up empty.
The Kansas reserves weren’t much better. Their two subs — Conner Teahan and Kevin Young — combined for three points but they got off seven shots, the only successful one a 3 by Teahan with 8:19 to play. Young had five rebounds, four on the offensive end, for Kansas (32-6).
There won’t be much talk about the Jayhawks’ lack of depth because they are celebrating moving on to face Kentucky for the title on Monday night.
Ohio State, on the other hand, has a long offseason to think what might have been if there was any offense from the reserves.
Point guard Aaron Craft played all 40 minutes for the Buckeyes, while All-America Jared Sullinger played 39, William Buford went 35 and Lenzelle Smith Jr. 34. Deshaun Thomas played only 23 minutes because of foul trouble.
“I think we caught a break when Deshaun got his third foul early and fourth foul early,” Kansas coach Bill Self said.
The real trouble for the Buckeyes was getting no help from the bench.
In their four wins leading to the Final Four, at least one reserve scored nine or more points by himself. In the East Regional win over top-seeded Syracuse, Thompson, Ravenel and Williams combined for 20 points. That was 20 more than they managed against Kansas.
The Buckeyes struggled from the field in the second half, shooting 24.2 percent (8 for 33), a far cry from the 46.2 percent (12 for 26) they shot in the first half. Ohio State’s 34-25 halftime lead was gone within the first 6 minutes of the second half as the Buckeyes missed their first 10 shots.
“Our inability to put the ball in the basket there was something that enabled them to gather momentum and get themselves going,” Ohio State coach Thad Matta said.
While the reserves weren’t shooting at all, the stars were missing — Sullinger going 5 of 19, Thomas 3 of 14 and Craft 4 of 11.
“We needed one more guy to put the ball in the basket,” Matta said. “I thought we had some good looks but they just didn’t go down. You shoot 24 percent in the second half against a really good team, it’s going to be hard to win it.”
Matta praised Thompson for his defense.
“Sam had the three blocks and did a very, very good job for us on that end,” he said, adding that he felt he didn’t need his bench as much because “the first half, even the second half, we burned some timeouts. We were kind of riding the guys and felt like they had a pretty good feel for what was going on out there.”